Chinese-style steamed fish, topped with a mouthwatering ginger sauce that hits all the right flavor notes. This dish is easy to prepare, making it a perfect choice not just for Lunar New Year but also for a fuss-free yet delicious dinner.

Fish cooked in a steamer with ginger soy sauce.

Steamed Fish

Steamed fish is a popular dish in Chinese cuisine. This cooking method preserves the natural flavors and textures of the fish, allowing its freshness to shine through.

Steamed fish with Chinese ginger sauce.

Additionally, this cooking method aligns with Chinese culinary principles that emphasize balance, health, and harmony in flavors. The gentle steaming process retains the fish’s moisture, resulting in a tender and succulent texture that appeals to both taste and health-conscious preferences.

Steamed Fish Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you will need:

Whole pompano, light soy sauce, sugar, chicken broth, green onions, ginger and sesame oil.

Type of Fish

For Chinese-style steamed fish, whole fish as well as boneless fish fillets with a mild flavor and firm texture work best. My recommended types include:

  1. Pompano (pomfret) – A flavorful and firm-fleshed fish that holds up well to the gentle cooking method of steaming. The result is a moist and tender fish with a delicate taste.
  2. Sea Bass – Known for its delicate flavor and flaky texture, sea bass is a favored option for steamed fish dishes.
  3. Tilapia – This mild and lean white fish is readily available, affordable, and takes on flavors well, making it suitable for Chinese-style preparations.
  4. Flounder or Sole – These flatfish varieties offer a tender texture and subtle taste, making them excellent choices for steaming.
  5. Cod – With its flaky and mild flesh, cod is versatile and absorbs the flavors of the ginger sauce beautifully.
  6. Snapper – Red snapper provides a slightly sweet taste and firm texture, making it a popular selection for this dish.

💭 Top Tip! Remember to choose fresh, high-quality fish for the best results in your Chinese-style steamed fish recipe. Check the signs: eyes should be clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh should be firm and shiny and should bounce back a bit when touched, gills should be bright pink/red and wet, not slimy or dry).

steamed pompano Chinese style sauce topped with cilantro/coriander and ginger.

Sauce Ingredients

These ingredients are the secret to the best-tasting steamed fish just like in Chinese restaurants :

  • Light Soy Sauce – Often labeled as “thin” or light-colored soy sauce. Despite its paler hue, it packs a saltier punch compared to regular soy sauce. Opting for the light version preserves the vivid colors of the fish while adding a savory flavor.
  • Chicken Broth – the secret to a flavorful ginger sauce. Use low-sodium chicken broth or chicken bouillon/powder to dissolve in water.
  • Sugar – Balances the flavor of the sauce.
  • Ginger – Use fresh ginger for best results.
  • Green Onion (scallions) – Adds another layer of flavor and also serves as a garnish.
  • Sesame Oil – Adds fragrance and helps mask any fish taste from the fish.

How to Make Chinese Steamed Fish

1. Season and Steam the Fish

For convenience, ask the fish vendor to clean and de-scale the fish. Although they might not remove the fins, you can easily take care of it at home with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife.

steps on how to steam fish with ginger and green onions.

A few tips:

  • To ensure even cooking and allow the seasoning to penetrate the flesh, make 2 to 3 diagonal cuts on the body of the whole fish.
  • Rinse the fish and gently dry it with a paper towel. Season both the body and cavity with salt and pepper.
  • To mask any fishy flavor, stuff the fish with green onions, and ginger. This simple addition is the key to achieving a delicious and savory result.
  • Steam the fish until fully cooked. This can take 10-15 minutes depending on the size and thickness of the fish.
  • Check doneness by testing the thickest part with a fork; it should easily flake.

2. Make the Sauce

While the fish is cooking, you can make the sauce:

steps on how to make Chinese sauce for Steamed Fish.

For the sauce, sauté ginger slices (and optional chilies) in warm oil to enhance their aroma and flavor. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, then simmer until the sugar dissolves. That’s it! Easy!

Steamed Fish made of pompano or pomfret with Chinese sauce

How to Serve

Serve the steamed fish by generously spooning the flavorful sauce mixture over the top. Garnish with freshly chopped green onions or cilantro for added freshness.

Chinese steamed fish with rice in a bowl.

Pair it with steamed white rice or noodles to absorb the delicious sauce, and serve alongside a side of stir-fried or steamed vegetables for a delicious and satisfying meal.

What can I use instead of a steamer?

For steaming fish, a versatile and popular choice is an electric or stovetop bamboo steamer. It allows for gentle and even steaming.

Wok made into a makeshift steamer.

Alternatively, you can also use a deep pan or a wok as a makeshift steamer by pairing it with a stainless steel steaming rack. This setup is practical and effective, providing an excellent option for those without a traditional steamer. Ensure the rack fits securely inside the wok, creating a stable platform for steaming your fish.

steamed fish with soy ginger sauce Chinese style.

Steamed Fish Chinese Style (Pompano)

Rate this recipe
Make your own restaurant-style Chinese steamed fish with a delicious soy ginger sauce. It's a perfect balance of savory, slightly sweet, and zesty flavors, and the best part? It's surprisingly easy to make, even without a fancy steamer!
Servings2 servings
preparation time10 minutes
Total cooking time12 minutes


  • Steamer or Wok and Steamer Wire rack (see photos above and note 4)


Fish (note 1 and 2)

  • 1 lb whole fish (cleaned, gutted, scales removed)
  • ½ inch ginger (peeled and sliced)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ground black or white pepper (to taste)

Chinese Sauce

Garnish (optional)

  • cilantro/ coriander leaves
  • fried shallots or garlic



  • Prepare fish – Wash fish under running water then pat dry with a paper towel. Use a sharp knife to lightly score the top of the fish in diagonal lines about 1 inch apart.
  • Season fish – Place fish on a heat-proof plate that will fit into your steamer. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff sliced ginger and green onion inside the cavity of the fish.
  • Steam – Bring the water in the steamer to a boil. Once it's boiling, set heat to medium heat, and then place the plate on top of the steaming rack. Cover tightly and steam until fish is fully cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Larger fish need longer cooking time. Test the thickest part of the fish with a fork. It should flake easily.


  • Heat oil in a small pan over medium heat. Saute ginger, and red chili until fragrant. Pour soy sauce, chicken broth, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Do a taste test. Add a splash of water to adjust saltiness based on preference. Turn off the heat then add sesame oil.


  • Transfer the fish to a serving plate. Discard some of the fish liquid. Pour sauce all over. Top with remaining green onions, and cilantro. Garnish with fried shallots or garlic. Serve and enjoy while warm!

Recipe Notes & Tips:

  1. Use fresh fish – check for the signs: eyes are clear (not cloudy) and plump (not deflated), the flesh is firm and shiny (it should bounce back a bit when touched), gills should be bright pink/red and wet (not slimy or dry).
  2. Recommended types of fish: pomfret (pompano), bream, tilapia, red snapper, grouper, and barramundi/ sea bass. You can also use a boneless fish fillet. Reduce cooking time to 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Chicken broth – you can also dissolve 1 tsp chicken powder or 1/2 pc chicken bouillon in 1/4 cup hot water.
Author : Mella
Course : Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine : Chinese
Keyword : cantonese steamed fish, steamed fish, steamed fish recipe
Nutrition Facts
Steamed Fish Chinese Style (Pompano)
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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